With each passing year, a successful Miami agent is seeing more of her low- and middle-income clients struggling to find reasonably priced homes they can afford — and it’s only getting worse.
As extensively reported in The Miami Herald, working-class residents are getting priced out of decent neighborhoods, and the disparity between “haves and have nots” is growing bigger.
What can she and her broker do to better serve these clients, while at the same time helping their sellers earn top dollar for their listings?
I proudly represent a wide variety of clients from many different walks of life, so I have a good understanding of what homes are genuinely affordable for first-time buyers, service industry employees and public sector professionals like teachers, nurses and police officers.
Unfortunately, in a growing metropolitan area like Miami, we have relied on wealthy international buyers and investors to drive our real estate market for many years, and the pool of decent affordable housing for everyday residents has grown smaller and smaller.
My goodness, even the cost of renting in modest areas has become abusive for even middle-income individuals, couples and families who are just trying to get on their feet. It has become a serious, crippling issue for our community; one that threatens the quality of life for those who live, work and play here.
Shouldn’t we, as an industry of real estate professionals, be much more proactive about creating a pool of acceptable and reasonably priced homes for those who want to live in our city? What can we do at the brokerage level to address this problem?
The unfortunate answer is “not much.” I don’t mean to be flippant about what is clearly a serious issue, but our job as agents and brokers is to serve our clients to the very best of our abilities. A major part of that job is to help our sellers get the most money they can for their properties, by all legal and ethical means at our disposal.
Of course, the other side of that coin is our responsibility to help buyers purchase homes for as little money as possible, and here is where we as real estate professionals can make some inroads on affordable housing.
When working with buyers of more modest means in this environment, we need to be smart, fast and aggressive (and encourage our clients to be the same.)
Smart about knowing the inventory of affordable condos and townhouses through the MLS, fellow agents, and social media; educating the buyers about the realities of the market; securing loan pre-approvals; and identifying new and flexible financing options.
Fast about reacting when affordable listings come on the market and getting offers in immediately.
Aggressive about making high-quality offers that may be just a bit beyond the buyer’s means today but will become negligible over time. For example, if buyer has to pay $5,000 or so above list price, that same amount over the course of a 30-year loan is virtually nothing, especially at a 4 percent interest rate.
There should also be aggressiveness about accepting “fixer-upper” homes in neighborhoods that might not be a buyer’s first, second or even third choice.
How to resolve
Solving the challenges of affordable and workforce housing is primarily the responsibility of governments on the national, state and local levels.
Our elected officials must be creative and flexible about working with developers to create this housing and should also take a hard look at policies that impact housing affordability, including rent control solutions, tax breaks for renters and low-income or first-home buyers, and raising of the minimum wage.
Real estate professionals can play a role by:
- Supporting candidates and officials who make affordable housing a priority
- Volunteering our services and expertise to help these officials with the process of affordable housing development
- Charitable efforts such as team builds with Habitat for Humanity and other agencies
- Committing a certain portion of agent commissions or company profits toward affordable housing causes
- Accepting a reduced commission structure for low- to middle-income homebuying clients
- Awarding agents who do so on a consistent basis
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Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s “Agents’ Choice” Awards.